Some important developments for both Kumiko and Reina occur in Episode 6, but I’ve talked those points to death in previous essays. Instead of our octopus-haired euphonium player, let’s talk about Hazuki. While we’re at it, let’s cheat a bit on the rules. The Team Monaka OVA doesn’t directly follow Episode 6 chronologically, but it does follow it thematically. Episode 6 and the OVA are really Hazuki’s episodes. Developing Hazuki as a band member allows for some growth on Kumiko’s part and invests the viewer more in her eventual confession arc with Shuichi, but Hibike doesn’t treat Hazuki as a simple tool. Her development is carefully arranged and is used as another angle to explore Hibike’s themes of instrument-as-identity.
Let’s figure out what’s so good about tubas—I mean, Hazuki.
At the start of Hibike, Hazuki is similar to Kumiko in that she doesn’t quite understand who she is or what she wants to do. Despite playing tennis all through middle school, she wants to try a whole bunch of different clubs in high school to see what she likes. In her quest to find herself, Hazuki ends up in concert band—though, unlike Kumiko, this is more a result of her desire to explore and be with her new friends than going with the flow.Read More »
Episode 5 provides the perfect opportunity to discuss one of Hibike Euphonium’s most prominent motifs: steps. Steps and feet. Although we never see or hear of marching band again after this episode, the importance of steps and feet only builds throughout the series. We should establish some background on the topic, and there’s no better place to do so than an episode about marching band—an activity based on steps. Moving forward, let’s figure out what movement can convey in Episode 5 of Hibike Euphonium.
As the band practices marching together, the camera shoots from a low angle where the band members’ feet constantly pass through the foreground. This draws our attention to two ideas: one that enhances our understanding of marching band, and one that hones the focus of the episode as a whole. The ever-passing feet, combined with Kumiko’s explanation of marching, inform us that the focus of marching band is ultimately on the feet. For the band to stay coordinated and in line, they must match each other’s feet. Additionally, or by proxy, this focuses the episode as a whole on feet and steps.Read More »
In his book, The Anatomy of Story, John Truby identifies a character archetype/event model he calls the “fake-ally”. The fake-ally joins or interacts with the protagonist under the guise of assistance, but in reality is working for the goals of the antagonist. Truby’s fake-ally is less a character and more a tool used to obstruct the path of the hero. Via the reveal of the fake-ally’s motives and true allegiance, the audience can be thrown for a loop, but, more importantly, the hero can learn something about themselves or their quest—typically something the fake-ally represents or makes clear.
To take an incredibly simple example (spoilers incoming for Frozen, the Disney film), Hans from Frozen betrays Anna by not kissing her to cure her frozen heart. Hans is a fake-ally who intends to take over Arandelle and only pretended to love Anna as part of his plan. Without getting too deep into it, Hans’ fakeness causes Anna to realize what true love is and where she found hers. In an easy reveal, the hero can experience a revelation and the story can deliver some kind of message to the audience, as well as swing the plot. Disney and Pixar love using fake-allies. A bit too much, honestly…
But what does any of this have to do with Hibike! Euphonium?Read More »
Come Episode 3, we can finally begin to explore some of Hibike’s more interesting and intricate qualities. Primarily, this episode reveals the series to be a Romantic one (as in my Spice and Wolf essay, this is not necessarily lower-case romance—though we’ll get to that…) and crafts some complexity into Kumiko and Reina. The overarching conflict of the season is finally explained, and with perfect timing considering how the tone of the show begins to shift this episode. Let’s figure out how exactly these changes in story and statement work together.
Hibike’s Romantic side first shows in its background music. In particular, the track “Sprouting of Senses” accompanies any moment Kumiko and the viewer contemplate what concert band and playing an instrument means for a high schooler. We hear this track in Episode 1 when Kumiko thinks back on Reina’s middle school frustration. Kumiko acts out a conversation between her and Reina, wherein she attempts to explain her feelings about band. In Episode 3, the song plays again as Kumiko and friends pick out their instruments. The three first years see themselves in their instruments—quite literally, they see their reflections—and their instruments look back at them.Read More »
With Season 2 of Hibike Euphonium just a few months away, and given my infatuation with the show, I’ll be writing through every episode of the first season. This will be different from my Owarimonogatari series in that each essay most likely won’t focus on a single particular topic. I’ll just be detailing whatever stands out to me in the directing, animation, story, or sound as I watch, and trying to expand upon my earlier essays on this show. I’ll being referencing and linking to those essays a lot. By going episode by episode, I can point to details that didn’t fit in the original essays, as well as moments that are worth talking about, but don’t warrant an entire essay.
So although this series will be rather analytical in nature, it’s really more of a confession of love. Hibike is a masterpiece in so many ways, and hopefully throughout this series I can share with you some of what makes it so special to me. This first post will be on the shorter side since the first episode can only do so much, but there’s still plenty to talk about. On that note, it’s only right to start the same way as always: let’s figure out Episode 1 of Hibike Euphonium.Read More »